The Spinners (American R&B group)

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The Spinners
The Spinners (1965).png
The Spinners in 1965. From left to right: Billy Henderson, Edgar Edwards, Bobby Smith, Henry Fambrough, and Pervis Jackson.
Background information
Also known asDetroit Spinners
Motown Spinners
Origin Ferndale, Michigan, United States
Genres R&B, smooth soul, Philly soul, Detroit soul, Doo Wop,
Years active1954–present
LabelsTri-Phi, Motown, V.I.P. (Motown), Atlantic,
Associated acts Harvey Fuqua, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick
Members Henry Fambrough
Charlton Washington
Marvin Taylor
Jessie Robert Peck
Ronnie Moss
Past members Pervis Jackson
Billy Henderson
C. P. Spencer
James Edwards
Bobby Smith
George Dixon
Edgar "Chico" Edwards
G. C. Cameron
Philippé Wynne
John Edwards
Frank Washington
Harold "Spike" Bonhart

The Spinners are an American rhythm and blues vocal group that formed in Ferndale, Michigan, in 1954. They enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly with producer Thom Bell. The group continues to tour, with Henry Fambrough as the only original member.

Rhythm and blues, commonly abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.

Ferndale, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Ferndale is a city in Oakland County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It forms part of the Detroit metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 19,900. Ferndale is well known in the Detroit area for its LGBT population and progressive policies.

Thomas Randolph Bell is a Jamaican-born American songwriter, arranger, and record producer known as one of the creators of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s.


The group is also listed as the Detroit Spinners and the Motown Spinners, due to their 1960s recordings with the Motown label. These other names were used in the UK to avoid confusion with a British folk group also called The Spinners. [1] On June 30, 1976, they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [2] In 2015, they were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [3] Music critic Robert Christgau has called the Spinners "a renowned show group whose supersmooth producer inhibits improvisation". [4]

Motown Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group. It was originally founded by Berry Gordy Jr. as Tamla Records on January 12, 1959, and was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960. Its name, a portmanteau of motor and town, has become a nickname for Detroit, where the label was originally headquartered.

The Spinners (UK band) folk group from Liverpool

The Spinners were a folk group from Liverpool, England, that formed in September 1958. The group was unusual for its time in having a multiracial membership.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Entertainment hall of fame in Hollywood, Los Angeles

The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,600 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California. The stars are permanent public monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry, bearing the names of a mix of musicians, actors, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters, and others. The Walk of Fame is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust. It is a popular tourist destination, with a reported 10 million visitors in 2003. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce holds trademark rights to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


In 1954, Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, C. P. Spencer, and James Edwards [5] formed The Domingoes in Ferndale, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit. The friends resided in Detroit's Herman Gardens public housing project and came together to make music.

William (Billy) Henderson was an American singer, best known for being an original member and founder of The Spinners, a soul vocal group.

Henry Fambrough American musician

Henry Fambrough is an original vocalist and current member of the R&B quintet The Spinners. He is the last surviving original member of the Spinners.

Pervis Jackson American singer

Pervis Jackson was an American R&B singer, noted as the bass singer for The Spinners, and was one of the group's original members.

James Edwards remained with the group for a few weeks and was replaced by Bobby Smith, who sang lead on most of the Spinners' early records and their Atlantic Records hits. Spencer left the group shortly after Edwards, and later joined the Voice Masters and the Originals. George Dixon replaced Spencer, and the group renamed themselves the Spinners in 1961. [6]

Atlantic Records American record label

Atlantic Recording Corporation is an American record label founded in October 1947 by Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson. Over its first 20 years of operation, Atlantic earned a reputation as one of the most important American labels, specializing in jazz, R&B, and soul by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Ruth Brown and Otis Redding. Its position was greatly improved by its distribution deal with Stax. In 1967, Atlantic became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, now the Warner Music Group, and expanded into rock and pop music with releases by Led Zeppelin and Yes.

The Originals, often called "Motown's best-kept secret", were a successful Motown R&B and soul group during the late 1960s and the 1970s, most notable for the hits "Baby, I'm For Real", "The Bells", and the disco classic "Down To Love Town." Formed in 1966, the group originally consisted of baritone singer Freddie Gorman, tenor/falsetto Walter Gaines, and tenors C. P. Spencer and Hank Dixon. Ty Hunter replaced Spencer when he left to go solo in the early 1970s. They had all previously sung in other Detroit groups, Spencer having been an original member of The (Detroit) Spinners and Hunter having sung with The Supremes member Scherrie Payne in the group Glass House. Spencer, Gaines, Hunter, and Dixon were also members of The Voice Masters. As a member of the Holland–Dozier–Gorman writing-production team, Gorman was one of the co-writers of Motown's first number 1 pop hit "Please Mr. Postman", recorded by The Marvelettes. In 1964 The Beatles released their version and in 1975 The Carpenters took it to number 1 again. This was the second time in pop history that a song had reached number 1 twice as "The Twist" by Chubby Checker, reached number 1 in both 1960 and 1961. In 2006, "Please Mr. Postman" was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Early recording years: 196171

The Spinners' first single, "That's What Girls Are Made For", was recorded under Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi Records. The single peaked at number 27 on the Top 100 chart in August 1961. [5] Smith sang lead vocal on this track, coached by Fuqua. [7] The group's follow-up single, "Love (I'm So Glad) I Found You", also featured lead vocals by Smith. This song reached number 91 that November, and was the last Tri-Phi Records' single to reach the Top 100 charts.

"That's What Girls Are Made For" is the debuting single for the American R&B/Soul vocal group The Spinners, released on Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi Records label in 1961.

Harvey Fuqua American musician, record producer

Harvey Fuqua was an American rhythm and blues singer, songwriter, record producer, and record label executive.

Sources debate the extent to which Fuqua became a member of the group during its stay at Tri-Phi. Fuqua sang lead on some of the singles and considered himself a Spinner. In the credits on Tri-Phi 1010 and 1024, the artist was credited for the first two singles and listed as "Harvey (Formerly of the Moonglows and the Spinners)". However, most sources do not list him as an official member.

The Moonglows American R&B group

The Moonglows were an American R&B group in the 1950s. Their song "Sincerely" went to number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and number 20 on the Billboard Juke Box chart.

James Edwards' brother, Edgar "Chico" Edwards, replaced Dixon in the group in 1963, at which time Tri-Phi and its entire artist roster was bought out by Fuqua's brother-in-law, Berry Gordy of Motown Records.

In 1964, the Spinners made their debut at the Apollo Theater and were received with high favor. "I'll Always Love You" hit number 35 in 1965. [5] From 1966 to 1969, the group released one single a year, but only the 1966 single "Truly Yours" peaked on the Billboard 100 R&B chart at number 16. [5]

With limited commercial success, Motown assigned the Spinners as road managers, chaperones, and chauffeurs for other groups, and even as shipping clerks. G. C. Cameron replaced Edgar "Chico" Edwards in 1967, and in 1969, the group switched to the Motown-owned V.I.P. imprint.

In 1970, after a five-year absence, they hit number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 with writer-producer Stevie Wonder's composition, (the Cameron-led) "It's a Shame" (co-written by Syreeta Wright) and again charted the following year with another Wonder song the composer also produced, "We'll Have It Made" (led by Cameron), from their new album, 2nd Time Around . However, these were their last two singles for V.I.P.

Shortly after the release of 2nd Time Around, [8] Atlantic Records recording artist Aretha Franklin suggested the group finish their Motown contract and sign with Atlantic. The group made the switch, but contractual obligations prevented Cameron from leaving Motown, so he stayed on there as a solo artist and urged his cousin, singer Philippé Wynne, to join the Spinners in his place as one of the group's three lead singers, with Henry Fambrough, and Bobby Smith.

Peak commercial success

When the Spinners signed to Atlantic in 1972, they were a respected but commercially unremarkable singing group who had never had a Top Ten pop hit — despite having been a recording act for over a decade. However, with songwriter Thom Bell at the helm, the Spinners charted five Top 100 singles (and two Top Tens) from their first post-Motown album, Spinners (1973), and went on to become one of the biggest soul groups of the 1970s.

The Bobby Smith-led "I'll Be Around", their first top ten hit, was actually the B-side of their first Atlantic single, (the Fambrough and Wynne-led) "How Could I Let You Get Away". [9] [10] Radio airplay for the B-side led Atlantic to flip the single over, with "I'll Be Around" hitting number 3 and "How Could I Let You Get Away" reaching number 77. "I'll Be Around" was also the Spinners' first million-selling hit single. [11] It was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on October 30, 1972. [12]

The 1973 follow-up singles "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" (led by Smith and Wynne), which was another million-seller, [12] "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" (led by Wynne), and "Ghetto Child" (led by Fambrough and Wynne) cemented the group's reputation, as well as further that of Bell, a noted Philly soul producer.

Following their Atlantic successes, Motown also issued a "Best of the Spinners" LP which featured selections from their Motown/V.I.P. recordings. They also remixed and reissued the 1970 B-side "Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music" (led by Smith, originally co-led by Cameron) as a 1973 A-side. In the midst of their Atlantic hits, it crawled to number 91 in the US.

The group's 1974 follow-up album, Mighty Love , featured three Top 20 hits, "I'm Coming Home", "Love Don't Love Nobody", and the title track. Their biggest hit of the year, however, was a collaboration with Dionne Warwick, "Then Came You" (led by Smith, Warwick, and Wynne), which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming each act's first chart-topping "Pop" hit. The song also reached the Top 3 of Billboard′s R&B and Easy Listening charts.

The Spinners hit the Top 10 twice in the next two years with the Smith and Jackson-led "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)" (Billboard number 5) and the Wynne-led "The Rubberband Man" (Billboard number 2). "Games People Play" featured guest vocalist Evette L. Benton [13] (though producer Bell disputed this in a UK-based interview, claiming Evette's line was actually group member Henry Fambrough his voice sped up), [14] and led to the nickname "Mister 12:45" for bass singer Jackson, after his signature vocal line on the song.

The post-Wynne years

Philippé Wynne left the group in January 1977 and was replaced by John Edwards, who had recorded a number of R&B hits as a solo singer. Though this version of the group had minor hits from 1977 to 1979, they failed to hit the pop Top 40 for three years and parted ways with Thom Bell. They contributed two songs to Bell's film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and appeared in the film as a band. [15] In 1979, Motown released a compilation album on both sides of the Atlantic. From the Vaults, (US Natural Resources label NR 4014 and in the UK on Tamla Motown STMR 9001), included the song "What More Could a Boy Ask For" (Fuqua & Bristol), which was recorded circa 1965.

The group did have a brief resurgence at the dawning of the new decade, scoring two big hits in 1980 with Michael Zager medleys of "Working My Way Back to You"/"Forgive Me, Girl" (number two in March–April, number one UK) and "Cupid"/"I've Loved You for a Long Time" (number four in July–August, number four UK). However, success once again waned in the years that followed. The group's last Hot 100 hit was a remake of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away", which peaked at number 67 in 1983. In 1984, the group had their last R&B hit with "Right or Wrong", from that year's Cross Fire album. They would go on to release a pair of albums, in addition to performing the title track to the 1987 hit film Spaceballs , during the latter half of the 1980s, though none of these efforts were commercially successful. In 1983, the group guest starred as themselves on the TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley.

After some years spent collaborating with Parliament/Funkadelic and working solo, Wynne died of a heart attack while performing in Oakland on July 14, 1984.

In a 2014 interview, Henry Famborough, the group's last surviving original member stated: "Bobby (Smith) was always our major lead singer for all those years. Had always been. Always will be," [8] despite the fact that Fambrough has received little credit for the many Spinners songs on which he sang or shared lead vocals, including: "I Don't Want to Lose You", "Ghetto Child", "Living a Little, Laughing a Little", "Ain't No Price on Happiness", "Smile We Have Each Other", "Just as Long as We Have Love", (a second Spinners duet with Dionne Warwick) and "Now That We're Together".

The Spinners today

The Spinners in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, on March 18, 2006 TheSpinnersCollage-1000.jpg
The Spinners in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, on March 18, 2006

After their chart career ended, the Spinners continued touring for decades. They are big draws on the oldies and nostalgia concert circuits, playing the music that made them famous.

In their box set, The Chrome Collection, the Spinners were lauded by David Bowie and Elvis Costello. They were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. On July 27, 2006, the Spinners performed on the Late Show with David Letterman .

G.C. Cameron rejoined the group as lead vocalist from 2000 to 2002 (replacing John Edwards, who left due to a stroke), but he left them in 2003 to join The Temptations. Frank Washington, formerly of The Futures and The Delfonics, joined for a few years, before being replaced by Charlton Washington (no relation).

In 2004, original member Billy Henderson was dismissed from the group after suing the group's corporation and business manager to obtain financial records. He was replaced by Harold "Spike" Bonhart. Henderson died due to complications from diabetes on February 2, 2007, at the age of 67. Another early member, C. P. Spencer, had already died from a heart attack on October 20, 2004; [16] [17] and another, George Dixon, died in 1994. [18]

Original member Pervis Jackson, who was still touring as a member of the group, died from cancer on August 18, 2008. [19] The group continued for a short time as a quartet before Jessie Robert Peck (born in Queens, New York, December 17, 1968) was recruited as the group's new bass vocalist in February 2009. In 2009, Bonhart left the Spinners and was replaced by vocalist Marvin Taylor. The group lost another member from their early days, when Edgar "Chico" Edwards died on December 3, 2011. [20]

The Spinners were put into the limelight again in 2003 when an Elton John track was re-issued featuring them on backing vocals. In 1977, the Spinners had recorded two versions of "Are You Ready for Love" at the Philadelphia studios. One had all of the Spinners, the other with only lead singer Philippé Wynne on backing vocals. Elton John was not happy with the mixes and sat on the tapes for a year before asking for them to be remixed so they would sound easier on the ear.[ citation needed ] Finally, in 1979, the Wynne version was released as a single, but it only made it to number 42 in the UK. The track was then remixed by Ashley Beedle from Xpress-2 in 2003 after becoming a fixture in the Balearic nightclubs and being used by Sky Sports for an advertisement. It then went to number one on the singles chart after being released on DJ Fatboy Slim's Southern Fried Records.

In September 2011, 57 years after forming in Detroit and 50 years after "That's What Girls Are Made For", the group was announced as one of 15 final nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, their first nomination, they were also nominated in 2014 and 2015.

Lead singer Bobby Smith died on March 16, 2013. [21] The group, which still tours actively, consists of Henry Fambrough (the only surviving original member), Charlton Washington, Jessie Peck, Marvin Taylor and Ronnie Moss.

In 2017, the Spinners were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. [22]



Top forty singles

The following singles reached the top 40 on the US or UK charts:

YearSong titleUS Billboard Hot 100 US R&B Chart UK Singles Chart [23]
1961"That's What Girls Are Made For"275
1965"I'll Always Love You"358
1970"It's a Shame"14420
1972"How Could I Let You Get Away" (A-side)
"I'll Be Around" (B-side)

"Could It Be I'm Falling in Love?"4111
1973"One of a Kind (Love Affair)"111
"Ghetto Child"2947
1974"Mighty Love"20133
"I'm Coming Home"183
"Then Came You" (with Dionne Warwick)1229
"Love Don't Love Nobody"154
1975"Living a Little, Laughing a Little"377
"Games People Play"51
"Love or Leave"368
1976"Wake Up Susan"561129
"The Rubberband Man"2116
1979"Body Language"1033540
"Working My Way Back to You" / "Forgive Me, Girl" (medley)261
1980"Cupid" / "I've Loved for a Long Time" (medley)454
1995"I'll Be Around" (Rappin' 4-Tay featuring The Spinners)393730

Related Research Articles

<i>Spinners</i> (album) 1973 studio album by The Spinners

Spinners is the third studio album recorded by American R&B group The Spinners, produced by Thom Bell and released in April 1973 on the Atlantic label. The album was the group's first for Atlantic after leaving Motown.

The Rubberband Man 1976 single by The Spinners

"The Rubberband Man" is a song recorded by the American vocal group The Spinners.

"How Could I Let You Get Away" is a song recorded by the American vocal group The Spinners. Produced by Thom Bell and recorded at Philly's Sigma Sound Studios, the lush, string-augmented production of the song drew comparisons to another Bell - produced group, The Stylistics. The song was recorded for inclusion on the group's 1972 self-titled debut album on Atlantic Records. It was also the A-side of the group's first single release on Atlantic in August 1972. It was the first Spinners hit to feature lead vocals by Philippé Wynne. The song had modest success on the charts, reaching number fourteen on the U.S. R&B charts and crossing over to the U.S. Pop charts peaking at number seventy seven. However, it would be the single's B-side, "I'll Be Around" led by the Spinners' other lead singer Bobby Smith, that would be the group's real chart breakthrough, becoming a #1 R&B and #3 pop hit in the fall of 1972 and eventually reaching sales of over a million copies.

Ill Be Around (The Spinners song) single by The Spinners

"I'll Be Around" is a song recorded by the American R&B vocal group The Spinners. The song was co-written by Thom Bell and Phil Hurtt and produced by Bell.

Bobby Smith (rhythm and blues singer) American R&B singer and leader of The Spinners

Robert "Bobby" Smith was an American R&B singer notable as the principal lead singer of the classic Motown/Philly group, The Spinners,, throughout its history. The group was formed circa 1954 at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Michigan, just north of the Detroit border. The group had their first record deal when they signed with Tri-Phi Records in early 1961.

Could It Be Im Falling in Love 1972 single by The Spinners

"Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" is a 1972 song recorded by the American R&B vocal group The Spinners. The song was co-written by Melvin and Mervin Steals, two songwriter brothers working for Atlantic, who were sometimes credited as "Mystro and Lyric." It was produced by Thom Bell, recorded at Philly's Sigma Sound Studios and the house band MFSB provided the backing. Bobby Smith sings lead through most of the song while Philippé Wynne handles vocal duties on the song's outro.

One of a Kind (Love Affair) single by The Spinners

"One of a Kind " is a song recorded by the American R&B vocal group The Spinners. It was written by Joseph B. Jefferson and produced by Thom Bell.

Its a Shame (The Spinners song) The Spinners song

"It's a Shame" is a song co-written by Stevie Wonder, Syreeta Wright and Lee Garrett and produced by Wonder as a single for The Spinners on Motown's V.I.P. Records label. The single became the Detroit-reared group's biggest single on the Motown Records company since they had signed with the company in 1964 and also their biggest hit in a decade.

"I'll Always Love You" is a song co-written by William "Mickey" Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter and produced by Stevenson and Hunter as a single for The Spinners on the Motown Records label. The single became the Detroit-reared group's first charting single on the Motown Records company since they had signed with the company in 1964. The song was a top 40 pop single on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, on which it peaked at number 35. On the Billboard R&B singles chart, "I'll Always Love You" peaked at number 8. The song featured lead vocals by the group's main lead singer, Bobby Smith.

<i>New and Improved</i> (The Spinners album) 1974 studio album by The Spinners

New and Improved is the fifth album by American R&B group The Spinners, released in December 1974 on the Atlantic label. Like the Spinners' two previous Atlantic albums, New and Improved was produced by Thom Bell and recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia.

<i>The Original Spinners</i> 1967 studio album by The Spinners

The Original Spinners is the 1967 debut album by The Spinners for Motown Records. The LP includes the group's earliest singles on the label, as well as their first ever single "That's What Girls Are Made For". None of the group's other material from Tri-Phi appear on this album.

<i>2nd Time Around</i> (album) 1970 album by The Spinners

2nd Time Around is a studio album recorded by American R&B group The Spinners, released in October 1970 on Motown's V.I.P. label. This is their only album with G. C. Cameron. This is also the group's last album made while they were under contract with Motown Records; by the time of their next album, they had signed at Atlantic Records.

"Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music" is a 1967 song co-written by Richard Drapkin and Marty Coleman. In 1968 it was assigned to Artie Fields' Top Dog label in Detroit and issued as a 45 by rhythm and blues singer Joe Towns.

<i>The Spinners: Their Early Years</i> 1963 compilation album by The Spinners

The Spinners: Their Early Years is a compilation album featuring The Spinners and other various artist that were signed to the Tri-Phi Records/Harvey Records label(s) from 1961 to 1963. It contains the five singles that the group made while signed at Tri-Phi, and a few tracks where they sang backing vocals for other acts on both labels. The album also contains songs performed by various other acts that didn't make the transition to Motown.

"Sadie" is a song recorded by the American R&B vocal group The Spinners. The song was written and produced by Joseph B. Jefferson, Bruce Hawes and Charles Simmons. Recorded at Philly's Sigma Sound Studios and released as the third single from their 1974 New and Improved album on Atlantic Records, "Sadie" would chart at number #7 on the U.S. R&B Singles Chart, their 10th consecutive Top 10 Atlantic single on the chart. It also reached the number #54 position on Billboard Pop Singles chart.

"Truly Yours" is a 1966 song and single by The Spinners for the Motown label. Co-written and produced by William "Mickey" Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter, the single became the Detroit-reared group's second to chart on the company label, and the fourth to chart altogether. It was also the last to chart in the 1960s and last to chart for the group until "It's a Shame". The single peaked at 11 on the BillboardBubbling Under Hot 100 charts. However, on the Billboard R&B singles chart, "Truly Yours" was a Top 20 hit, peaking at number 16.

Ghetto Child (song) 1973 single by The Spinners

"Ghetto Child" is a 1973 song recorded by American R&B music group the Spinners for the Atlantic label. It was written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed. It was produced by Bell, and recorded at Philly's Sigma Sound Studios with the house band MFSB providing the backing instrumentation. It is notable for being one of few songs that all three main leads, Bobby Smith, Philippé Wynne and Henry Fambrough sing lead.


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